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Trump says he will call for Justice Department to probe whether FBI ‘surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes’


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President Trump said Sunday that he would demand that the Justice Department explore whether it or the FBI “infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes” — escalating a battle over federal law enforcement's use of a confidential source to aid its probe into whether the Trump campaign and Russia coordinated to influence the 2016 election.

Trump wrote on Twitter, “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

The tweet seemed to be a response to recent reports about the FBI using a longtime intelligence asset to advance its investigation into Russian election meddling. Trump and his allies have seized on the use of the asset to claim that the FBI has spied on his campaign.

The president's impending demand is significant in its own right: the nation's chief executive ordering an investigation into the investigation of his campaign. But it also could presage more important developments.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has sought documents on the FBI's use of the asset and, so far, has been rebuffed by Justice Department leaders, who worry that exposing the source or the source's work could put him in danger. The FBI had been working over the past two weeks to mitigate the potential damage if the asset's identity were revealed, according to several people familiar with the matter.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced in March that he would explore controversial applications to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, along with the department’s relationship with a former British intelligence officer who provided information cited for those requests. That review, which will assess whether the FBI and the Justice Department complied with the law and their own policies in requesting and carrying out the surveillance, might already cover at least part of what the president is requesting. Horowitz also said that he would examine other matters that might arise during his review.

It is possible that Horowitz’s work might have naturally led him to look at the FBI’s use of the confidential source, who had contact with Page, in the Russia investigation. The Justice Department would not necessarily chafe at an internal look at its conduct.

What would be considerably more explosive would be for the president to order the Justice Department to turn over documents on the confidential source to Congress — which department leaders have said they are unwilling to do. The president could order the department to produce the materials, but that would spark significant backlash in the department and the broader intelligence community.

A Justice Department spokeswoman offered no immediate response.

Trump's demand came after a six-part morning tweetstorm in which he lashed out at special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's probe into his campaign, calling it “the World's most expensive Witch Hunt,” and trashed a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help to Trump's 2016 campaign.

In the tweets, Trump accused the special counsel's investigation of turning to other leads around the world after, in his words, finding no collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice in its ongoing probe.

The lengthy story in the Times said George Nader, purportedly representing the two Persian Gulf states, met with Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, at Trump Tower in August 2016. The meeting was arranged by Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater, a private security firm that has since changed its name.

The paper reported that Nader told Trump Jr. that Saudi and UAE princes were interested in helping his father win the election and that an Israeli social media expert who also attended the meeting suggested ways to help manipulate public opinion. In the United States, it is illegal for campaigns to accept financial contributions from or coordinate with foreign governments in federal elections.

According to the newspaper, Trump Jr. reacted approvingly to the offer, though it is unclear whether any plan was put into action by the campaign. The Times reported that Nader is cooperating with the special counsel investigation.

In his tweets, Trump asserted, without evidence, that investigations into his campaign's connections with Russia have cost taxpayers nearly $20 million and suggested that it is a politically motivated effort to undermine his presidency. The president said Democrats were in charge of the probe, even though Mueller, a Republican, was appointed head of the FBI by President George W. Bush, a Republican, in 2001.

As he has in the past, Trump attempted to direct attention and blame onto Democrats, including Hillary Clinton's campaign, raising old questions about emails she sent on a private server during her tenure as secretary of state in Barack Obama's administration.

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